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Shafer Gallery to feature opening reception for Harnessing Consciousness: Joel T. Dugan exhibit
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The Shafer Art Gallery will host an opening reception for the “Harnessing Consciousness: Joel T. Dugan” exhibit from 6-8 p.m. Friday, February 27. The reception will be preceded by a live painting demonstration at 2 p.m. presented by Dugan, which will focus on the process of portrait work.
Shafer Art Gallery Director Dave Barnes said the narratives in Dugan’s work evoke the imagination.
“Since the very beginnings of the history of art making, artists have used images to tell stories,” Barnes said. “Joel T. Dugan uses expressive brushwork and fluid composition to tell stories that chronicle the interior process of storytelling itself. Often surreal and dreamlike, his work is evocative, poetic and downright powerful. It is the energy and authority of his mark-making that impresses me the most.”
The exhibit will be up through April 1. The Shafer Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.  Admission is free.

Joel T. Dugan
Featured artist Joel T. Dugan is ready to take you on a journey with his paintings.  
“My paintings are all interpersonal and start as stories or life events,” he said. “I pull from that as a source of inspiration and they kind of become fictional plays in a way. These are real narratives in that sense and I have created a series of work that is a long, sequential journey for essentially a group of six people. These people are bonding in a scenario where there is a sense of imbalance that has taken place, not necessarily an apocalypse but there is some shifting realization and everybody is trying to come to some personal sense of what their reality is going to be.”
His exhibit in the Shafer Gallery will feature not only these paintings but also observational studies that are more simplistic and focus on relaxing the process of each stroke and colors. There will also be a series of more abstract work based around the ideas of focus and engagement in a world where people are increasingly distracted by the technology that surrounds them.
“This abstract work explains the attraction that we all have but especially the younger generations have with their cell phones as their almighty voice and almost a phantom appendage. These are images of someone holding something or grabbing something out of a smoke cloud, or the ‘portal’ as I call it. We always have this thing to direct us and when you are engrossed in the phone you can only see in that close depth of focus, and nothing in your peripheral.”
All of the aforementioned work will make up the exhibit as a whole and will be an encompassment of Dugan’s sometimes manic state of creation.
“I will be bringing down a full scope of the different steps of my process,” he said. “I like the idea of showing the multiple renditions that take place, both the failures and surprises. There will be sketches, collages, smaller studies and there will be a lot of development on hand.”
Dugan spent a lot of time between his undergraduate and graduate work painting massive murals for corporate buildings, state buildings and high-end interior designers. He said he became so used to creating for commission that he had to remind himself to focus on his personal goals as an artist, which he now does in his own studio.
“It got hard for me to decipher between my personal work and my commission work and that was very scary,” So now, I stray away from even completing a sketch or even a mock up to the extent to where it’s a clear reference of what I want the final piece to be, because I was so used to that when painting murals. I have to remind myself not to reproduce or just purely try to render, but to allow myself to just be more aware of my surroundings, my emotions and my imagination and try to allow all those things to coalesce at once.”
When he’s not creating on a personal level, Dugan teaches art at Fort Hays State University. He said one of his main goals is to teach people that part of being an artist and a human is to realize it is okay to completely fail.  
“I’ve become more aware of the fact that so many people are plagued with the fear of failure,” he said. “It’s really concerning for me. So much more is predicted and so much more is established that it keeps us from absolutely failing. Whether it’s an app or YouTube video showing you how to do something there is always a way to rely on something. It’s important for students to take ultimate risks.”
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